Hand in hand and coupled with a hug, the two leaders of North and South Korea—Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in—discussed the world’s elusive dream of putting an end to the long-drawn Korean War that started in the 1950s. In 1953 an armistice delivered a cease-fire to the Korean War but the absence of a peace treaty did not help in bringing an official conclusion to the conflict.
This is why the community of nations was filled with delight seeing the Panmunjom village inside the demilitarized zone unfolding into a site for a remarkable announcement from the two leaders that there will be no more war in Korea and that the road to denuclearization will be the way forward, with the United States and China providing support.
Nobody expected that the recent hard line directives of the US to the UN Security Council to impose strong economic sanctions against North Korea such as banning its exports worth more than $1 billion a year and the limitation on China’s oil exports to Pyongyang shall result to something as dramatically important like this. With a vow to seriously discuss a possible treaty that will close the last chapter of a long standing truce book, political and foreign policy experts are saying that this can be the start of the removal of nuclear weapons in North Korea. Both leaders, likewise, committed to work together and continue the efforts with the US to end the dispute. And while China took the sidelines in this event, it also heralded the pronouncements in Panmunjom.
Caution and disbelief
Can there be one Korea? There are tough challenges in terms of merging the two countries into one. Economically speaking, North Korea is agriculturally based and its GNP cannot compare to that of South Korea, which has one of the biggest economies in the world right now. The latter is one of the leading centers of technology and engineering in the Asia-Pacific region.
On the security front, it is of common knowledge that the secretive North’s military industrial complex is legendary. It has a huge number of vessels, helicopters, submarines and aircraft. Of course, one cannot miss their arsenal of both nuclear and chemical weapons. The North Korean army is now close to 1.2 million, not to mention those in the reserve force. What to do with these resources will surely be problematic.
Different and contradictory
Talking about people and culture, South Korea is one of the most IT driven, entertainment-frenzied but also the most educationally competitive societies in the world right now. The young are obsessed with glitz and glamor, video games and pop irreverence. Work hours are long, tedious and stressful for most South Koreans and it may be very difficult to assimilate North Koreans who are used to predictable “work-home-work” or “school-home-school” routines. The possibility of unfair comparisons between the two societies may be socially difficult in a two system, one nation set up.
In the international political scene, the China-Russia-North Korea security coalition vis-à-vis the US-Japan and South Korea bloc and their respective interests have to be carefully balanced or reconciled. With a reunification, some would wonder what would happen to the US troops in the South. And what will be the disposition on China’s traditional all out support for North Korea because of its sensitivity to US presence? Realistic questions demand early reflection, masterful review of all options given the honest need for a new geopolitical landscape for peace.
Though arduous and daunting, let us savor these once in a lifetime moments when the two Korean leaders with common forebears, ancestors and bloodlines, talk about what binds them as a people—common heritage, values such as love for family and people, love for nature, cultural treasures in food, arts, music and literature and everything else that makes us human.
The mere spectacle of this reunion is quite a sight to behold. So let it be. The world deserves this, even just for a while.
A Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude graduate of the University of the Philippines, the author is a management consultant on Strategy and Investment. He was a lecturer at the University of the Philippines before he was hired as researcher-reporter of ABS-CBN Channel 2. He also served as deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Customs; CEO of the Office of Civil Defense, Department of National Defense; chairman and CEO of MNL Corp.; chairman and CEO, Orion Energy Corp.; and member of PMA Class of 1987.
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